The First Sunday of Lent is typically the time when catechumens celebrate the Rite of Election. If they are going to celebrate the Rite with Bishop Loverde at the Cathedral, they typically celebrate the Rite of Sending prior to that in their home parish. However, this year, with the unpredictable weekend weather, Christ the Redeemer parish postponed the English celebration of the Rite of Election for the following week.
At the 10 AM Mass where the Rite of Election was originally scheduled, the faith community was still able to celebrate the sacrament of Baptism. Many parishes often do not celebrate Baptisms during the Season of Lent. In the past, Christ the Redeemer was also one of those parishes. This year, Fr. Patrick Cogan, SA, JCD has begun offering Baptisms inside a mass on the last Sunday of each month.
There is no strict Lenten prohibition on Baptism. Some reasons for not doing so may be practical ones such as concerns for having enough time to properly prepare parents and families for the sacrament during Lent, which can be a very busy time for priests and parish staff. One would certainly not want to rush through preparations with the families or cause undue burdens for other liturgical ministers during this time. Another popular reason might be to avoid the disconnect between the more somber and reflective mood of Lent with the joyous mood of Baptismal celebrations. That is, not so much the celebration within the church, but balancing the ascetic practices of fasting and abstinence with its exact opposite in celebrations after the mass in a family home or restaurant.
The meaning behind Lent is both about Baptism and Repentance. Certainly the readings for this First Sunday of Lent bore that out in reminding us of the rains that fell in the time of Noah and the establishment of a new covenant, further described in the Second Reading by St. Peter.
Lent is certainly about anticipating either the renewal of Baptismal vows by the Christian Faithful, or the preparations leading to the Elect becoming newly baptized at the Easter Vigil. To put it figuratively, we spend the 40 Days of Lent in a desert that anticipates the coming of baptismal waters to wash the newly baptized and to refresh and renew the Christian faithful. We are reminded of this in Mark’s Gospel for this week, where immediately after Jesus is baptized, the Spirit drives him into the desert where he is tempted and prepares himself through 40 days of fasting.
Another image that comes to mind is the moment in St. John’s Gospel when Jesus gives up his Spirit on the cross and a lance is thrust in his side. Immediately blood and water flow from his side. For St. John, this is the Baptismal moment, from death to new life, for him and Jesus’ mother, and for the whole church to be born out of Jesus’ Resurrection and Empty Tomb.
Baptism is from death to new life just as Lent is dying/turning from sin and believing in the Gospel. It is with great joy that Christ the Redeemer welcomes Daniel Young, child of John Clint Young and Meriam Senay. John Young, who was baptized in Bristow VA as a Baptist, was part of the RCIA here at Christ the Redeemer. He was welcomed into full communion at the Easter Vigil in 2011. His wife, baptized in Ethiopia, is also in full communion with the Catholic Church. There marriage was celebrated at Christ the Redeemer in June of 2011 and now as a family, they remain parishioners here. What a wonderful way to begin this Season of Lent. What a wonderful reminder of how we become church. What else is possible this Lent?